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Katie Richman on Product Leaders collaborating with Partners, building large-scale partnership programs, and going deep into Gen AI
Product State Q&A
Katie Richman is the Founder of Technormal, a web3 consultancy. She was formerly Global Business Development + Partnerships Lead at Facebook / Meta’s NPE (New Product Experimentation team). She previously held roles at ESPN, Oxygen Media and Nickelodeon.
Newsletter / LinkedIn
EC: What can Product Leaders do to contribute in landing and expanding key partnerships?
KR: Here’s some advice that has become crystal-clear to me — and something so many teams forget in tech:
You first and foremost need to think about what's in it for them.
I've worked for a bunch of well-known brands and businesses. Over time, Product and Media teams start drinking the kool-aid, believing that they are the best-in-class. There's almost an unspoken feeling that any partner would be ‘so lucky’ to get chosen by us. This is a red flag — keep your eye out for it.
Once we have a prioritized set of dream partners for a product across key areas — I try to stop, step out of my shoes, and literally pretend I'm the CEO or founder of the potential partner you're approaching.
Think about everything they're dealing with. They might just be worried about making payroll — or not going under. How is this partnership going to help them meet their goals? Do you even know what their goals are?
This helps you frame out the value proposition before reaching out and wasting any time. Then you can approach them, make your case of how this is a win-win, and wait. If they say no, ask if you can come back in 6 months to talk.
Don't burn any bridges. Don’t forget: Tech is so small!
EC: What is essential in building large-scale partnerships programs?
KR: It depends on a bunch of things. With an established business, we're working with the relationships already in place before we got there. When I came to Facebook, the Media Partnerships team was 5+ years old. Facebook had hundreds of media partners across verticals like News, Sports, Entertainment. In that case, I inherited an unfocused media developer partner set, as it had not been intentionally grown. When you come into an established set of relationships, you have to be very judicious and focused on the human connections there.
With NPE (Meta’s New Product Experimentation business), the leadership team asked me to launch a global partnerships program from the ground up. Unlike my previous experiences working for a brand, product, or business line, this was an incubator with ~20 independent, externally-recruited founders. Each one had unique needs, and it was a constant challenge to not be spread too thin.
My core recommendations are:
1) Listen first — "Partnerships" has become business jargon, but never forget that it exists because of living, breathing humans and the fragile connections we make with each other over time.
2) Make data-based decisions — When you're overwhelmed, take a step back. Make sure you don't just inherit relationships and partnerships because of legacy. There comes a point you have to 'reset' by stepping back. I start top-down with the business goals. If, for example, the goal for the half is to increase watch time for Facebook Live by 8% YoY (year over year), how can your Partnerships team show quantifiable impact?
That's also the secret to staying relevant to the business. My dad used to say: ‘Stay close to the cash register.’
After aligning your team's goals with the larger business goals for the half, it's all about data. Pick your KPI — GET BUY-IN —then step back and let your team do what they do best.
Sounds easy right? ;)
EC: What advice would you give to Founders and PMs getting started?
KR: Off the bat, I'd say that ALL Founders and product leaders should be carving out space to focus on web3. And I'm not talking about the metaverse or crypto or DAOs. I love all of that, but none of it touches the revolution that is AI.
It might be easy to overlook if your company isn't dealing with machine learning or large language models. I get that — it's not a new word.
Generative AI and large language models are relevant to ALL of us. The same way the internet is relevant to all of us. To a lesser degree, the same could be said for mobile or social media. If you think mobile and social advancements were a big deal, then you're about to be floored.
My advice right now? Prioritize hands-on learning of ChatGPT, specifically. It's free and sitting there for you. If you have to cancel meetings, blow off calls, adjust your calendar... do it.
This is relevant to anyone running a business. For example, I recently sat with my sister to explain ChatGPT to her. Like most people, all of this news sounds like a lot of hot air, and she's very skeptical of the ROI for herself as a soon-to-be small business owner. She and I sat side by side with dueling laptops. We focused our 'What is ChatGPT?' coaching session on the tangible value she could see as a doctor starting her own holistic practice. Within 60 minutes of hands-on iteration, she was almost jumping up and down. We think we saved her $5k in design, operations, financial tracking... You name it.
“Think about everything they're dealing with. They might just be worried about making payroll — or not going under.”
- Katie Richman
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